The Elusive Student
Students enter classrooms at the beginning of every hour knowing exactly what will happen; the teacher will talk, they will take notes and after a few days there will be a test to see if the student remembers what the teacher told them about Napoleon, a guy, who lived so long ago the student could honestly care less. The students role in this situation is to simply absorb and repeat. Although many classrooms rarely still look that basic the role of the student has not changed. Instead of simply rewriting now they make projects or posters but their role in the classroom is the same, passive and lacking in curiosity on the part of the learner. Students are told what to ask and how to ask questions that most often are not even relative to themselves or their own lives. At this point many students want to "do school" in whatever way is easiest. They come to terms with the idea that they just need to know all this stuff making it very difficult to make them curious again. All of the best teachers are constantly searching for a way to bring the curiosity back into the classroom on their students terms.
Flipgrid is a tool, it's not a magic bullet, but it does allow students a place and opportunity to share their voice with their peers and with the teacher. Since I've started using it in my classroom to spark debates on early political parties, check points for reading, or feedback about classroom activities I've seen the student buy in increase drastically. All students have a voice and want to have a chance to express themselves and in the traditional classroom only the most pushy or rambunctious could be heard. Flipgrid gives every student a chance to share what they've learned and how they learned it!
What Is Flipgrid
A social media learning app is the best way to describe Flipgrid. I've had many students compare it to snapchat. Teachers create a grid or class and then post topics or assignments where students will respond. Flipgrid could be used like every other tool to get students to simply repeat back what a teacher has said but here's the key difference... Flipgrid has the potential to do so much more! When a teacher asks for a students thoughts on why something might have happened or what they enjoyed most from a book I've seen that I get a much better response from Flipgrid than any other platform. Students talk in complete sentence and will use every second you give them in front of the mic. Instead of getting back two word responses on paper students will take notes on what they want to say and then make sure they hit them all during their recording. There are so many ways to use Flipgrid they created this handy image but feel free to come up with any of your own as well! Below is a resource showcasing the many ways people Flipgrid and if you need more ideas check out the #Flipgridfever on twitter!
How I've Used Flipgrid
I'm a middle school history teacher and Flipgrid has now become a crucial tool in my classroom that both myself and my students love. So far this year they've recorded over 24 hours worth of footage. Below are some examples of how my students have engaged with Flipgrid!
First summarizing and analyzing an article. Students in this Flipgrid were tasked with exploring the attached reading on the final slave ship to travel to the United States. After reading the National Geographic Article they needed to explain in their own words answers to the questions asked. This is simply using Flipgrid to replace a worksheet but the potential here is a much more interactive response from students. I've also discovered that I get more out of my students when they are tasked with talking out their responses. Meaning they use complete sentences and thoughts instead of one word responses on paper!
Next responding to a video, this Flipgrid was originally posted as a link at the end of an edpuzzle video. So in this assignment students watched and responded to the questions through the edpuzzle and then were tasked with a final question to respond on Flipgrid. Here the Flipgrid was used as an extension activity. Asking students to apply knowledge they gathered from the video to make observations about the world today.
Finally Flipgrids are great for families! Students aren't the only ones who enjoy recording, parents can get in on the action too! In this Flipgrid I created a space for parents to post videos for their students. I've also created a grid where I most videos about students to share with individual parents as well!
I am very excited to announce that I have finally trademarked a logo for my website! This was something that I have been looking forward to doing for some time and after much thought and prayer I have finally decided on a design! Along with this update I will also be looking to try and jump start the Facebook by the same name that I created about 2 years ago.
In 4th grade I sat in classroom surrounded by my classmates as the teacher handed out a study Bible to each one of us. Once we each had one a clear piece of plastic followed and on that little square a drop of honey was placed. As we each sat there with this strange thing on top of our Bibles the teacher then opened hers and began to read to us from Psalm 119:103 "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" I will never forget that day. I remember sitting there moving the little square with the honey around the cover of my Bible and realizing that although the honey had a color I could still see through it. From that moment on I have always tried to be conscious of the lens through which I read the word of G-d. The circle next to the phrase is meant to be a reminder of this lens. Do we look through scripture with a selfish lens seeking to point out the sins of others without seeing our own or do we look at the Bible through the lens of someone looking to spread a message of love? The moment I started to see the words of the living G-d come alive on the page in front of me with the context of the people that this book was originally written to my life and image of who Jesus is was changed forever. And that's what the ministry G-d has called me to is about, I look to find those who are ready to take a journey deeper into their faith and face the challenges that in the end will leave us all closer to the love of G-d. So look outside of yourself and find other lens to read the greatest love story ever told!
Stories define who we are, what we find to be truth, and how we live our lives. We write our own narratives in our heads about who we are, our friends, enemies, and even what the Bible says. Yes, some people may find this concept hard to wrap their minds around but if you live in the United States I'm sorry to say you most likely have allowed your Western worldview lens define the way you interact with the book that is the base of your faith. In some cases this lack of understanding doesn't really change what you were supposed to take away but in others the meaning is drastically changed.
Take for example one of the most famous psalms 23, I'm sure many Christians can recall this one from heart having memorized it at some point in your Bible school career.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul..."
If you're a Westerner you probably picture a field of belly deep hay where you could eat your fill and quietly rippling clean crisp water to drink from. Tell me your life as a Christian has been that easy! So what's wrong with our western image? Well... we're forgetting the land in which the story was written! One of the biggest shortcomings I see today in churches is illiterate Christians, too many people think the Bible was written TO them, no it was written FOR you but it was written TO an audience of Jews who lived in a small pocket of land half the world away over 2 thousand years ago.
If a Jew from that time read these words they would know sheep were found out in the desert, in fact the Hebrew word for desert and pasture are the same word (Midbar). And so "green pastures" are a rocky hillside with small tufts of grass. As sheep would walk through the heat and rocky hills they would find a hill that a small amount of dew settled on and allowed these grass clumps to grow. Quiet waters in Hebrew culture implies still water which is the opposite of living water, flowing water. It's a puddle of water that may not be the most clean but it's enough. In both cases the image that we are shown through the proper lens is of a shepherd who provides his flock with JUST ENOUGH to survive the day and each of these things comes from following the shepherd. This is one of the most obvious and easiest to shock people with but the Bible is full of Hebrew poetry, location based stories and word play that you NEED to know the culture of the time to understand. So next time you're going to study the Bible take off your Western glasses and be ready to consider the lens of an ancient Jew.
Gerrymandering is a unique topic for history teachers to teach and can bee difficult for some students to grasp. It is mixed in with the electoral collage and looking at how votes are counted inside of a district. One of the best tools I've found to teach this concept to my students was not even an educational tool it was a game on the google play store! The app is called Gerrymander: Rig The Election. It's bright and colorful with a built in tutorial that teaches the basics and introduces students to the idea of drawing district lines.
I introduced this to students by simply showing them the app first and giving them 10 minutes to play. After that we grouped back up and had a conversation about what they saw as the objective in the game and discussed whether we thought it was fair or not. This was my first time teaching the concept but I thought it went really well overall. I was very happy with how engaged the students were. I was worried concerning the topic would be dry and unappealing but this was a way that really worked well for them. Check out the links below to learn more about how you could put the app on your students devices!
Video games are one thing that today's students are for the most part obsessed with. Even people that would not consider themselves gamers do in one way or anther play some kind of game. As a teacher I also love video games so this mash up felt like second nature to me. This is the story of how I was able to capture the attention of my seventh grade class and engage students that had been up until this point been troublemakers.
On our launch day students were introduced to the empires we would be covering in this unit with a traditional slides presentation but then the presentation shifted to a trailer from Fortnite season 5, I put this in the presentation as this season was designed around the idea of things from the real world ending up in the game. Once that was done students were going crazy they had no idea why I had just showed them that. The next slide I showed them was the map of Fortnite because one of the first things players do in the game is decide where to land. The map was split between all of the civilizations that students had to choose from.
Once Students had discussed with their group what their top choices were I randomly selected groups and gave them a chance to write their name on that space on my board. Then we got into the actual expectations for the project by covering a list of in game content they would be creating. The key here is that all of the content they made had to showcase a part of their empire's society which could be; style of dress, military, food, culture, religion... etc. The END PRODUCT the students will create is a binder that contains final draft sketches of each piece they design and write-ups that explain the importance/influence of the empire on the in game content they're drawing.
Launching The Project
Students used the group organization documents from the Buck institute to organize and divide the work. Once they finished this part I gave them a couple days to simply start looking for information. During these times I always had a slide on the screen which contained some of the constraints to help them look for information as the went. This included things like the time frame, other keywords for each empire and location names. Students are also told that for each item they will be drawing or modeling they will need to create a 2-3 paragraph write up as well explaining the importance or connection of the game content they are creating.
Now we're into the main part of the project. Students are required to check in with the teacher on a daily or every other day basis. They must also keep a complete project log of where they are in the work process with all of their content. If a student misses a deadline they are given a strike, three strikes and you are kicked out of your group.
Other Resources and Tips
A few quick final details:
- I allowed students to trace photos if they wanted because I'm not testing students ability to draw. If they found a photo of a Roman soldier that they wanted to use as a skin they could trace parts of it onto a fresh page of paper to include in their book.
- For students that did not like the Fortnite part of this project I reminded them that this is more of a research project that they are just getting the chance to draw with.
I'm left handed and have always found it very awkward to write on a marker board. How do I hold the marker... do I write normally or cursive seems to look better but kids cannot read that. So I've always dreaded writing directions for my classroom on the board. This past year I was introduced to a very simple edu tech tool called ClassroomScreen. And it has forever changed how I will manage my classroom.
How It Works
ClassroomScreen is a webpage that you can customize. Add note pads for text information like; today's agenda, a quick write or directions for an activity. There are many other great tools; a stoplight to manage classroom behavior, a volume level chart or a tool that can use your computer's microphone to literally show the noise level in the room. I use the timer a lot myself to display how much time is left for my students to complete the current activity. One very interesting tool I haven't had a chance to test out yet is a QR code generator so you can copy a URL paste it there and then students only have to point their tablet or computer at the screen to travel right to where you are. These are just some of the tools and there are many great backgrounds to choose from including Gifs! There is also the option to upload an image of your own if you want a more personal touch.
I may not ever use all of the tools on ClassroomScreen but it will be a tool that I use for many years to come because it has so many little things all packed into one workspace. I don't need to flip between tabs or change my screen every few seconds to pull up the next "Doc" for the kids it all in one place. The only thing I would love to see added is a profile feature for a teacher to have presents saved.
Creating lesson plans can be very time consuming and I often found myself creating long lists on paper or a google doc only to feel overwhelmed and start over on a clean sheet after I'd become frustrated enough. When I was at Kent Innovation I was shown a very visual and user friendly way of organizing my thoughts with a google spreadsheet. A link can be found below. But this format does have it's draw backs. Every week you need to copy a new blank sheet and if you have multiple classes you need to have multiple google docs for each class.
That's where Common Curriculum (CC) comes in. After a quick initial set up of telling CC your daily schedule and the layout you would like for each class it generates every day of the school year into a template. You can add days that your school has off or other reminders to show those within the schedule. If a lesson goes slow and will require another day lesson's can easily push one day back to make room for a rap up session.
Lastly the best part for me is all of the standards that are in the CC library. If you have a standard's card in your daily schedule you can look up a list of all the standards that are required for your course and select the standards you are hitting each day. On the flip side then there is the option of looking at the standard list and seeing when each one was covered and if you missed anything you were hoping to hit.
There are many other features like a classroom website for parents, collaboration with a co-teacher, attaching documents or handouts to lessons, printer friendly PDF's and so much more that make this tool one that will be using for a long time to come. If you are interested in checking it out just to see if it's the right planning tool for you all of the pro features are available for one month free but even without those CC is an amazing tool for planning your classroom activities!
Looking at charts and graphs for most students is tedious and boring. There is nothing for the student to engage with the visuals just require students to make an observation and draw a conclusion on it. These two skills are things we want students to be able to do on their own but in the instance of just looking at data it fails to engage students. Some see no challenge in drawing a conclusion and others may not see a connection because they don't feel invested in the question. Flourish offers a solution for both of these issues.
Flourish is a tool used by corporations to visually display data at conferences or to preform data analysis. I was introduced to this amazing website by a friend of mine that works at Facebook. There are many different forms of graphs and charts you are able to create and all of them can be shared with a public link. Creating a graph is as simple as importing an Excel spreadsheet which you can export from Google Sheets or Excel. Once the data is in the teacher can define the columns as three types of data:
Meta Data: Data that will appear when a line or bubble is clicked on
Categorical Columns: Data that is analog or choice based
Continuous Columns: Data such as test scores or number based data
After the data is defined there are many customizations to personalize the data like changing the background image, the colors used in sorting, how meta data is displayed, and the animations.
This amazing site could be used to direct students to look at data uploaded by the teacher with a prompt about finding a connection between anything from location of a school and student scores or states won by each party and the minority populations. The map overlays make geographical data possible as well.
The site is also easy enough to use I could see it being used by student in their own projects that require them to survey their classmates or families.
Flourish wasn't designed with classrooms in mind but the potential it has with eye catching graphics and ability to engage the individual looking at the data shows the potential it has with students. I look forward to using it in my classroom some day!
Click on the image below for an example that I was able to create with only a few clicks.
As a history teacher I often found myself pulling primary sources for students to read or reading work that my students turned in to me and while google classroom does have the ability to suggest edits and give feedback Kami provides a few more features that I have come to love.
First of all Kami works with PDF's as well as text documents and includes the ability to highlight, underline and draw on documents so as students are reading a text for class they can take notes or mark things they would like to talk about once the class pulls back together, and with Kami's integration in google classroom each student will be able to save their edits to their drive!
Kami also offers the ability to record audio or video feedback on a document. This is a very personal touch when it comes to leaving students feedback on a paper they wrote. I saw in my classroom that students were more likely to take my corrections when they saw that I had placed extra effort into giving them all individual feedback. On my end, recording a short video did not require a lot of time because I was able to articulate more accurately why I was suggesting a word change or other correction.
In class Kami gave me a surface that provided the students with a "teacher" copy of notes that I could easily upload to google classroom. In the event that a student was out of class or needed to check information before a test Kami provided a very effective way for me to capture a lesson.
Kami does have a paid version but the free standard does come with a lot of features and is well worth looking into if you use PDF's or google classroom in your school. This simple piece of software packs a punch in it's engagement potential with students and I have seen first hand how Kami enhanced student voice!
Bitmoji, a simple cartoon representation of a person, the idea of using this social media craze was one of the best things I did in my high school classroom. Using my Bitmoji in classroom materials such as lectures and activities gave me one more way to interact with students. Collecting Bitmoji from my students to use on review material and feedback opportunities gave them a more personal experience in the classroom.
The first time a cartoon version of my redhead showed up on a slide my students were taken aback, their teacher had a Bitmoji! Images are always more interesting than text to look at so it is important to remember that where you place Bitmoji's on content will draw students attention to that information. There are many different poses and props to display a bitmoji with for pretty much any occasion; reviewing, magnifying, starting discussions or quizzing students!
Besides using my own Bitmoji I had a open invitation for students to email me their Bitmoji and have the chance their's would be used in class. When I did use students Bitmoji I did tend to keep it to review sheets, tests and feedback. This was done to make a distinction in how students saw those forms of communication with me as the teacher. Seeing their classmates faces on worksheets did enable some students to open up more to me. The process of sifting through their submissions also gave me a chance to learn more about them. I asked students to send me Bitmoji's of their characters doing activities they enjoyed; through this I learned about a few that were in sports and others that enjoyed reading. These were introverted students that I had been having difficulty connecting with but I was able to form better relationships with them and seeing their Bitmoji on the materials made them feel more a part of the class because finding out who's Bitmoji was used was always a topic for a quick class conversation!
To get started I would recommend installing the Bitmoji Extension for Chrome and Android or Apple. Once you have created your snapchat account you can log on to these Bitmoji apps and download the Bitmoji as images. The best part with the Bitmoji images is they all have clear backgrounds which means they will easily fit in whatever resource you are creating. One thing to keep in mind is make sure when you are looking for a Bitmoji you need to type the emotion or verb you are trying to find a representation for. For example if you want to find one of you holding a magnifying glass you cannot just type in "Magnifying Glass" you need to type something like "Hmmm". So consider what expression you are looking for if you cannot find the specific pose you want.